Of the 24 children she has all over the world, Lee Yoon-mi gave birth to only one. But to this actress, who says she has experienced the miracle of sharing many times, all 24 children are equally precious.
Lee, currently the leading character in the musical “The Golden Days,” has been sponsoring the children via Compassion Korea, where she has been especially active in helping newborns to 3-year-olds.
“It’s no longer an issue of me helping them. I’m the beneficiary here,” Lee, who met with The Korea Herald during the musical rehearsal, said. “I feel so much happiness in helping more children and experiencing miracles through them.”
Lee, married to singer-turned-lyricist Joo Young-hoon, is among the growing number of celebrities here who have been leading the so-called “culture of sharing” by donating not just money, but talent and time.
Singers Kim Jang-hoon, Sean and Jang Na-ra, and movie stars Moon Geun-young, Cha In-pyo and Jang Dong-gun are among the stars who have donated large sums continually throughout the years.
Singer Kim Jang-hoon offers scholarships to students in need for the last 10 years, his donations adding up to more than 5 billion won.
Kim, who lives in a rented house in a northern Seoul neighborhood, led a move by lawmakers earlier this year for a law calling on the government to provide living expenses if a donator of more than 3 billion won faces sudden poverty.
To these celebrities, helping people in need with the money and fame they earned via the audience is “a natural duty,” Lee, mother of one-year-old daughter A-ra, said.
Lee has many special stories to share about her daughter and the 23 children from various countries including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“One of our children in Thailand had said she would pray for a sibling in Korea. We found out about my pregnancy a month after that,” Lee said. “When we delivered the news to our children, all of them said they would pray for A-ra.”
“Imagine being loved by all those different children scattered all over the world. A-ra is a blessed child.”
|Actress Lee Yoon-mi talks to The Korea Herald during the rehearsal for musical “The Golden Days,” at the Naru Culture and Art Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
A-ra also became a sponsor herself when she turned one in March, when Lee and her husband donated all the presents and money they received during A-ra’s birthday party to ill and vulnerable babies and moms in Indonesia.
Compassion was established by American Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952 to help Korean war orphans and now links sponsors with some 1.2 million needy children in 26 different countries.
Compassion Korea was set up in 2003 to pay back what the country received after the 1950-53 war and currently sponsors some 89,000 children around the world.
While 45,000 won (about $50) a month might not mean much for people here, the money is enough to change the lives of the children in need, Lee said.
“I think it is wrong to question why we should help children in other countries when we have orphans and poor people of our own,” she said. “Some Americans might have asked the same question decades ago when they were helping children in Korea, a country they did not know well. But it is that help that built us into a country that can now help others.”
Lee began to pay more attention to how she can help the people in need after her wedding in 2006, after which she and her husband donated two tons of rice that guests had brought instead of flowers at the couple’s request.
“I know that there are many people out there who want to donate and help but don’t know how. I was like that before getting married,” the actress said.
“My advice is to start donating the moment you feel the urge,” added Lee. “By offering whatever you can that moment, you’ll experience the miracle of being paid back with triple the happiness.”
“If you are reading this article right now, the moment may have come for you too.”
For more information on donations and charity work, visit the organizations at www.compassion.or.kr, www.holt.or.kr, www.chest.or.kr and www.habitat.or.kr.
By Shin Hae-in (firstname.lastname@example.org)